Like a lot of things in life when people read the words, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”, it means different things to different people. But regardless of what it means to anyone, is it right or wrong to refuse service to someone based on the job they do?
The first time in life that I encountered the standard we reserve the right to refuse service sign, was as a teenager in a chicken wings eatery suspected of discrimination towards American Blacks. Since as an American Black teenager I had been to many other eateries, some more upscale some lower scale, and had never seen this sign posted in any of those places, I wondered if the sign was really coded language that allowed this particular establishment to legally commit discrimination against someone, someone like me a person of color. Fortunately, even though I heard many rumors of discrimination events happening at this place, I personally never experienced it on my multiple visits there.
The Civil Rights Act is a landmark law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. In other words, a restaurant can’t commit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or national origin. 2 incidents occurred last week that raises the question are restaurants committing discrimination based on political affiliation?
According to a Sarah Huckabee Sanders Tweet, the following happened:
Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 23, 2018
The Washington Post reports Stephanie Wilkinson, the aforementioned owner of the Red Hen, huddled with her workers. Several Red Hen employees are gay, she said. They knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military, an act of discrimination towards LGBT citizens. This month, they had all watched her evade questions and defend a Trump policy that caused immigrant children to be separated from their parents. “Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave,” Wilkinson told her staff, she said. “They said ‘yes.’”
Wilkinson then approached the table where Sanders was seated and said to her: “I’m the owner,’” she recalled, “‘I’d like you to come out to the patio with me for a word.’” They stepped outside, into another small enclosure, but at least out of the crowded restaurant. Wilkinson said. “I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation. “I said, ‘I’d like to ask you to leave.’”
Sanders’s response was immediate, Wilkinson said: “‘That’s fine. I’ll go.’” Sanders went back to the table, picked up her things and walked out. The others at her table had been welcome to stay, Wilkinson said. But they didn’t, so the servers cleared away the cheese plates and glasses. “They offered to pay,” Wilkinson said. “I said, ‘No. It’s on the house.’”
A few days prior to Sanders Red Hen encounter, USA TODAY reports, a group of protesters interrupted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., Tuesday evening amid backlash over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that shows discrimination towards immigrants. Members of the D.C. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America entered MXDC Cocina Mexicana, a glitzy restaurant near the White House, to confront Nielsen as her department faces scrutiny over a policy that has resulted in some children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you’re deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States?” protester Jesse Rabinowitz shouts in a video posted on Facebook appearing to show the incident. “We call on you to end family separation and abolish (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).” According to CNN, Secretary Nielson had been sitting at the back of the restaurant and had a security detail at the time of the protest.
Protesters booed and peppered her with questions. “Aren’t you a mother, too?”, “How do you sleep at night?”, “Do you hear the babies crying?”, “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace!”, they chanted. “No borders! No walls! Sanctuary for all!” After about 10 minutes, Nielsen left the restaurant and got into an SUV.
Both of these scenarios give the appearance that Sanders and Nielson might fall into one of the different types of discrimination categories for the jobs they have. Based on the facts, one meets the discrimination definition and therefore was wrong and the other was not discriminatory and therefore was right.
Unfortunately for all the children forcedly separated from their parents last week by Secretary Nielson, she did not exercise the same wisdom in their case as she did last week by voluntarily leaving the restaurant. Even if the owners had asked her to leave it would not have been considered a discrimination action against her. No matter what one might think of the appropriateness of the protestors invading the restaurant, the owners had a responsibility to the other innocent paying customers to take the necessary steps to restore peace. The fair and democratic thing to do was to remove the one among the many that were the cause of the disruptive protest, restoring an environment for the many to continue to enjoy their meal in peace.
On the other hand, the situation with Sarah Huckabee Sanders was outright DISCRIMINATION at work. Unfortunately for her the Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom wimped out and ducked a decision that could have made the discrimination definition crystal clear. Ironically Sanders is the victim of discrimination based on the reverse of a recent case the Supreme Court wimped out on. It was a case appealed to the Supreme Court by a person accused of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
A couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision in Masterpiece Cakes v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, leaving open major questions about the right to turn customers away due to religious objections. The court ruled that baker Jack Phillips faced hostility toward his religious beliefs from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. David Mullins and Charlie Craig filed a complaint with the commission in 2012 when Phillips refused to make a cake for their wedding citing his Christian faith.
The commission ruled in the couple’s favor, saying that Phillips had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law. Phillips appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals. He argued that it was a violation of his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion. Because being required to bake cakes went against his religious beliefs. The Appeals Court also ruled in favor of the couple, and Phillips appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court sent the case back down with the instruction to pay more respect to the religious rights of the baker. They did not reverse the ruling that the baker was in violation of the anti-discrimination law, leaving many questions like does the baker have to bake the cake for future gay couples unresolved.
The Red Hen and its gay employees are guilty of the same thing the Colorado gay couple sued about, they discriminated against someone whose job and lifestyle offended them. In this case, its gays themselves that are discriminating against Sanders for having a job and lifestyle that offends them. The whole premise of the Colorado gay couple’s case was even if the baker was offended by their gay lifestyle, he still had to bake the cake for them.
Whatever you think about what and how she projects White House information, the job Sarah Huckabee Sanders is doing is: 1. legal, and 2. done the way her boss has instructed her to do it.
The ethics of what and how she does her job is in the eyes of each beholder. I actually heard a reporter when asked if Sanders was discriminated against say “she is not part of the protected class”. Martin Luther King Jr didn’t give the I Have A Dream speech just for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and the LGBT community. The “protected class” he fought and died for was the class of ALL HUMAN BEINGS There is no legal reason she should be denied service ANYWHERE! And when she is denied service anywhere, its discrimination. Even though she puts a positive spin on what some consider her bosses’ anti-gay policies, Red Hen you still have to cook and serve her that hen if she’s willing to pay for it like everybody else. Unlike Secretary Nielson, the only disturbance Sanders and her party were causing that night was to the political views of paid staff. Sanders and her party were no disturbance to the other paying customers and no protesters were present because of Sanders to disturb the peace.
Refusing service to Sarah Huckabee Sanders because her legal job offended the gay staff is no different than the religious anti-gay baker refusing to bake the cake for the gay couple. It was discrimination then and discrimination now against Sarah Huckabee Sanders straight up! The only difference was gay people inflicted the discrimination on non-gay people this time around. Red Hen you owe Sarah Huckabee Sanders an apology and a free cooked Red Hen!🔷
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(This piece was originally published on Isaac Newton Farris Jr.’s blog)